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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future

The fishing industry in Scotland comprises a significant proportion of the United Kingdom fishing industry. A recent inquiry by the Royal Society of Edinburgh found fishing to be of much greater social, economic and cultural importance to Scotland than it is relative to the rest of the UK. Scotland has just under 8.6% of the UK population but lands at its ports over 60% of the total catch in the UK.

Many of these are ports in relatively remote communities such as Fraserburgh, Kinlochbervie or Lerwick, which are scattered along an extensive coastline and which, for centuries, have looked to fishing as the main source of employment. Restrictions imposed under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) affect all European fishing fleets, but they have proved particularly severe in recent years for the demersal or whitefish sector (boats mainly fishing for cod, haddock and whiting) of the Scottish fishing industry.

However as a direct result of being in the EU the Scottish Fishing Industry has lost some 100,000 jobs, which in turns means we have lost some 2 billion in annual revenue and  as one person put it...

To summarise, - our fishing sector is much more severely depleted than we thought. We have a pelagic (mackerel) fleet of just 24 ships most of which are owned and run by greedy crooks with criminal records of misreporting and lying about catches and landings of many millions of pounds.

The once famed demersal (white fish) fleet is composed now of a few score of mainly under ten metre vessels, and its access to our coastal fishing areas is being sorely diminished by SNP sell-out to green organisations who are gradually getting control of key local fishing grounds by means of a series of legal MPAs - marine protected areas.

Our prawn fleet (now earning more than the demersal boats), is in dire economic straits and struggling to survive financially. As I said many times before, - their biggest costs are not the vessels or their equipment, but two pieces of paper. - namely their licenses and their quota allocations. And our iniquitous quota trade system is seeing a steady accumulation of fishing entitlement by the powerful and wealthy - even the banks now own piles of quota, - taken off boats that slipped into debt or bankruptcy. This affects both the demersal and prawn fleets. (The pelagic boats are unaffected since not a single one of their greedy multi-millionaire owners would ever offer quota for sale).

We still have "carpet slipper" skippers; - retired fishers who got or bought quota many years ago, and now lease some of it short term to other unfortunate fishers who are struggling to get access to fish stocks.

Beyond all that, - take a look around our ports and you can see the devastation wreaked on the basic framework of the industry, in the derelict boatyards and marine workshops, and the former net chandlers now turned into touristy shops to serve the yachting fraternity. As our fishing boats have vanished, their place in our harbours has been filled up by yachts. Then there is the loss of our skilled boat-builders and engineers with the closure of their premises. The few still around now work in the oil industry.

In the face of all that I just could not draft a positive fishing policy for the future. And I see no sign that current SNP policy would change things much, - even given independence. If we had a Scottish version of UKIP, it might agree, - but we don't. The infection and misdirection of the SDA does not bode well.

What I would strongly recommend (given independence), - would be : recovery of our grounds lost to the EU; - scrapping of the quota system to put all fish stocks under national ownership and control in close partnership with local ports and fleets; - curtailing the MPAs and keeping the green organisations at arms length; - and international fishery cooperation agreements with each of the non-EU fishing states like Iceland, Norway, Faroe, Russia, etc.

However I am pretty sure that no one in any position of power would listen to such ideas.

As one poet once said (I think G K Chesterton) - "I tell you naught for your comfort, - yea not for your hearts desire, - save that the sky grows darker yet and the sea rises higher".

Fishing Industry in Scotland
This is a good overview of the Industry from Wikipedia

The Background to the EU Common Fisheries Policy
Fishing - Executive Summary
A paper from the Scottish Democratic Alliance Think Tank (pdf)
Scotland and the EU Common Fisheries Policy
A paper from the Scottish Democratic Alliance Think Tank (pdf)
How the EU Common Fisheries Policy Permanently Damaged Scotland: A Warning for Iceland
By Dr James Wilkie, David Thomson and associates
SNP in threat to block foreign fishing boats from North Sea
Perhaps the SNP are waking up to what EU Membership could really mean?  Article from the Scotsman 28th June 2013
Fishermen caught in a net of bureaucracy
Stocks in the seas around Shetland are recovering well, but the men who know these waters are not free to look after them, writes Simon Collins. Article from the Scotsman 25th Sept 2013.
Tavish Scott: Spain sure to go fishing after a yes
Article from the Scotsman 18th Dec 2013.
FALs' reply to Balance of Competences review

How the EU Common Fisheries Policy Permanently Damaged Scotland
By Dr James Wilkie and associates (pdf)
What would Brexit mean for the UKs fishing industry?

Reply to the above article by David Thomson

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